Being led through the slum village was the first time in my entire life that I have been truly gutted. The wind completely knocked out of me. Nothing I've seen traveling or working as a nurse prepared me for the heartbreaking conditions that so many thousands of people live in here. It is absolutely no joke. Just take a short ten minute walk from our nice little pink and yellow neighborhood and you will find a completely polluted river. You have to breathe out of your mouth whenever you cross the bridge because the smell is so intense it will make you dizzy. There are little babies walking around alone without any pants on, their little dirty bodies surrounded by flies. Everywhere, flies. Cows eating out of enormous mountains of trash, next to more polluted water. You have to dodge countless piles of cow shit wherever you go. Little kids, eight or nine years old, sit for hours in the beating sun trying to sell bananas or grapes to make a few rupees for their families. Houses are one room, maybe two. Their front doors are cardboard boxes or large pieces of heavy paper strung up to the doorway. One day I walked past a dying dog laying right in the middle of a main dirt road. Four hours later, on our walk back home, it was still there.
But you know what? The kids that live in this village are fucking amazing. They learned my name that first day and every single day I walked those dirt roads I heard little voices yell, "Sarah! Hello Ma'am!". Every single day. They ran up to me and shook my hand or waved to me with the biggest toothiest smiles. They were the happiest, shiniest kids who were so eager to play and learn and show you their secret handshakes or give you pieces of their own candy. These kids have nothing. They have nothing. But, they have life in their eyes and they have simple kindness in their hearts and it has changed me.
A love letter to India: you have humbled me and opened up my life. You've made my blood flow differently and rearranged all of my molecules. I will carry you with me forever, as I do everything that matters.